Irene Mayer Selznick – first producer of A Street Car Named Desire

Edie and Irene Watermark
Edie and Irene Mayer, daughters of Louis B Mayer. Date unknown. Photo taken by MGM master portrait photographer, Ruth Harriet Louise. See my post about her and early death also in this blog.

As I watch the Tony Awards at home in Sydney, Australia on a rainy, stormy day – as always from a distance to those major events that my family was involved in – I am inspired to post this series of photos of my cousin Irene Mayer Selznick with her sister Edie.

Edie and Irene were, of course, the daughters of Louis B Mayer and the world was their oyster. Edie married well and I will write about her soon, but Irene chose the mercurial, genius filmmaker David O Selznick. From what I gather it was a fraught marriage, which resulted in my cousins L. Jeffrey Selznick who was devoted to film restoration (died suddenly in 1997) and Daniel Mayer Selznick who was involved in both film and theater.

In many ways I was inspired by my cousin Irene, who was considered one of the foremost historians of Hollywood and Broadway, to take up the role of informal family historian. In 1983 she published her autobiography A Private View. She wasn’t terribly kind to the family. But that was her view and certainly she was in the thick of it.

But today’s posting is about Irene’s amazing theater career, which by now many have forgotten. Here’s a ridiculously brief summary: In 1947 she worked with playwright Tennessee Williams and director Elia Kazan and produced her first play, A Streetcar Named Desire, which gave Marlon Brando his break-out role. The play’s success brought her a great deal of respect, and she went on to produce four more plays, among them 1955’s The Chalk Garden for which she received a Tony Award nomination.

Irene Mayer Selznick died of breast cancer in NYC on October 10, 1990.

An amazing woman and as always, my distance is both geographical and generational…

Irene Mayer’s memoir:
Private View

The original Tennessee Williams’ novel:
A Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions Paperbook)

Copyright Alicia Mayer 2012.

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4 comments

  1. Alicia
    I’ve just been reading all your posts as you suggested as I am not a State of Origin footy follower ha ha!
    I’m loving your writing Alicia and the historical insights are fascinating. I have an autograph book my Mum left me filled with old movie stars names and have always loved the Hollywood era you write about.
    I’m also loving the fact that I can claim you as a dear friend after our serendipitous meeting at the opening of Tom McSweeneys studio.
    Anna xx

  2. Alicia, my mom talked so much about Edie when I was growing up. Everything was Edie Goetz!
    Hope you are ok and the family is doing well. Xoxox
    Harriett

  3. So funny! Her story is amazing. Must convince my cousin to write it… We are all well and I hope you and yours are too. I’m a bit worried about Ida’s papers and letters though. I will be in touch with the Home and see what we can do to ensure they are secured for posterity. Hugs and kisses and than you for taking time to leave a note xoxo

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